Ich bin there, done that.

I have been to about 15 art galleries and museums in 4 days – all of them world class.  I’m hoping my brain can retain most of what I saw.   I really enjoyed the small Berggruen museum – a Paris art dealer set up his own museum in a house.  Over 80 Picasso paintings and some Matisse, Brauch and Klee.

I needn’t have worried about missing early Christian altars, the Bode Museum had some mind-blowing ones.  And I am an agnostic, but it’s great art.  The gold against the luminous colours.  Some amazing carving of figures, and the faces seem so innocent and of course, of another time.

Art museums give you a headset.  There is a number on the paintings you punch in the number and a voice explains it.  That’s great, but exhausting if you are also scrutinizing the paintings for details.  Voice chattering in your ear.  I reluctantly do without the headphones.  If I had more time, I’d use them.

Berlin is one of the world´s art capitals, so I’m surprised that there is not much fashion in the streets.  Berliners have dropped the baton in the fashion races.  They wear mainly dark colours- black, brown, grey, blue and for the most part dress down.  Perhaps the strong hand of Martin Luther still rests upon them.  The original portrait of Luther by Cranach is in the History museum (Deutsche Historisches).  There are so many unique artifacts there.   I was impressed by a large Turkish tent, fully set up, which dated from the Turkish siege of Vienna – hundreds of years ago.  It’s a fascinating point in history.  The Turks were driven back but if they had captured Vienna – that would not only change Viennese culture but establish a beachhead into Europe.  Germany as a outpost of the Turkish Empire.  What an interesting idea – I bet Berliners would be dressing more colourfully today!

Went to a contemporary art museum in the old Hamburger Banhof station.  There was a show by a Berlin conceptual artist who has worked hard at rocking the boat for decades – rolling in large chunks of animal fat and other startling things.  He’s well-known.  I like one of his installations – a big platform with 2 blackboards with chalk writing on them.  About 40 other blackboards -with and without writing- were stacked or thrown around it.  I liked it.  Not sure why.  Pleasingly anti-authoritarian, I guess.

I had to get off at the Hauptbanhof to find the gallery -the big train/city transit station.  The station is really a stunning structure.  Huge and made of all clear panels.  Inside you can see the Reichstag and govt. buildings across the river. 

Keep seeing strange crows here.   Their bodies are grey, heads and wings are black.  I’m not sure if they are mutant crows, avant-garde crows or some other unknown species.  Or a strange portent.

One interesting thing – you can tell if you are in the former Eastern sector by the pedestrian crossing signals.   The little flashing “Walk/Don’t Walk” figures are different in East and West.  The East Berliners fought to keep their little ‘ampel-mannchen’ – little traffic men.   They are spritely, and the Western ones are lame and just functional.  Today I passed a store that sells nothing but merchandise featuring those little East German traffic figures.  Bags, cups, towels etc. There were quite a few people inside.

Oh, I got to Alexanderplatz today.  It’s not far from the centre of Berlin, but the area is still redolent of East Germany.  Not a lot of money has been put into this area.  Berlin city hall is here however, the impressive Rathaus.   I sat with my sandwich in a nearby park.  The was a large statue of Marx and Engels at the centre.  It looked familiar, maybe it was standard image from articles on East Berlin.   I dabbed my mouth with a napkin and went over to take a picture.  My guidebook said that, when the wall was taken down, someone wrote on this statue, “Next time will be different.”


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